Education is a very large system involving a lot of intricacies that are hard to grasp all at once. The public school system in the US isn’t quite on par with the private sector because of how stretched the funding is across thousands of public schools and because each city and state have their own systems and rules.
In a city like New York, the most populous city in the US with a population of over 8 million, a complex educational system is in place, especially for high school. Several specialized high schools of New York offer a top tier education that neither public nor many private schools can offer. They operate specifically to accommodate the needs of talented and gifted students, academically and artistically. The main criteria which the 9 specialized high schools base their acceptance of students upon is the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). It’s important to understand how the SHSAT works if you want to get into any of these schools.
What Exactly is the SHSAT?
The Specialized High School Admission Test is a 3 hour long exam that is required by 8 out of the 9 specialized high schools in New York. The only school that doesn’t need a SHSAT is Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, which accepts students into the fields of music, visual arts, drama, dancing, and theatre based on portfolios and auditions. The exam is administered in October, with a chance to enroll in make-up exams in November. Any student can take the test as long as they live in the designated boroughs, including non-native students and those with disabilities. The exam consists of two sections, English and math. Each section contains 400 points that amount to a total of 800 points as the final result. The exam tests the knowledge and skills of the student, which means that there will be questions that they may have come across before in school in addition to questions that will require them to think on their feet. The English section tests the student’s comprehension, editing, and revision skills, while the math section is designed to gauge their problem-solving skills through novel scenarios to concepts they've already learned before.
How Many Seats are Available?
The number of seats available at each school is the main reason that getting into specialized schools is hard and competitive. The numbers differ slightly every year, according to factors like school size, capacity, and funding. Applying into specialized schools is allowed for 9th and 10th-grade students, but the seats available for 9th graders are much higher as it’s emptied every year, in comparison with 10th-grade classes which already contain previous 9th-grade students.
The number of students admitted is not standard between the 9 schools. The variance between them can come off as surprising. With over 30,000 students preparing for it, only around 5,000 get accepted. The Brooklyn Technical High School admitted around 1400 students last year, whereas the High School for American Studies at Lehman College only took on 90. Regardless of the number of seats available at each school, there is one thing that could be said for certain, and it’s that the highest probability of getting into a specialized school is when the student is applying in the 9th grade.
Score Cutoff Ranking System
The SHSAT exam uses a ranking system that allows the students to rank each of the schools. Students prefer to use cutoff scores to rank the schools they want to attend, from the highest, the Stuyvesant High School, to the lowest, Brooklyn Latin. Using the cutoffs to rank the schools is a pretty smart strategy; if you choose a school that requires a lower score above another one that requires a higher score, you won’t be able to get into the higher-ranking school even if you have the cutoff score.
It’s important not to choose based on how the schools rank overall alone but also include your preferences like commuting distance, class sizes, and the student activities available. Make sure that you take your time to think about these factors before you take the exam because you’ll be required to rank the schools in the exam itself. The cutoff scores may show you the required performance to get into a preferred school, but you should never settle for scoring the exact cutoff score you need to avoid mishaps.
The specialized high schools of New York offer parents who have academically and artistically talented children a chance to provide them with the best education the city has to offer. It’s important to prepare for the SHSAT as early as possible. There is more than one chance for students to try again, whether through make-up exams or applying next year, so never lose hope.